Child labour in Mexican Agriculture on the Agenda

In some countries it is better known and researched that children are used as cheap labour. Cases like the cocoa plantations of Nestlé’s suppliers in Côte d’Ivoire, or in cobalt mining in the DRC are abundantly known. Now a report by the DPA newschannel on child labour in Mexico is bringing the wider issue into focus.1

The DPA report on a family moving round the country to look for work. The parents and their four children have found work in the chilli pepper harvest. During harvest season from December to May, the family has a secure income. After that they will continue to search.

According to the DPA, about 4 million Mexicans are working as migrant workers in domestic agriculture. But hidden in this number are about 1.5 million children and adolescents. In Mexico, child labour is illegal but due to poverty and a lack of consistent education children and adolescents are employed in agriculture. However, the civic association “Fuerza Migrante” has criticized the existing laws claiming they are not effective, and that enforcement of the laws is deficient. The conditions in the fields can be seen to be analogous to slavery, including 12-hour shifts in the blazing sun without appropriate protection and many migrant workers earn only three to seven euros per day.

The Mexican government is trying to address the needs of migrant workers and their families in specially-designed homes with education facilities provided. However the available funds appear to be too low to provide sufficient capacity. According to “Fuerza Migrante” overcrowding and lack of hygiene occur in these institutions. This adds to the stress and increases alcoholism – even in children.

However, not only in agriculture where child labour occurs. Last year, Mexican authorities discovered 63 children between 8 to 17 years working in a factory packing vegetables. They only received one day off per week and earned ony six Euro per day.2

Child labour is still widespread in Mexico, but seems to be slowly declining. A joint study by the World Bank, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF shows this positive trend, but has continued to point to the urgency of this problem. In rural areas, child labour is twice as common as in the city.3

Investors and companies must apply strict criteria on their business relationships with companies that have activities in Mexico. Child labour must not be thought to be soley a problem in Africa and Asia but must be actively combated in other parts of the world. Human Rights Watch points out that it is not sufficient to simply prevent child labour. Since families are often dependent on the income of the children a balance needs to be created for this.4

 


  1. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/news/leben/gesellschaft-kinderarbeit-auf-mexikos-feldern-sklavenartige-zustaende-dpa.urn-newsml-dpa-com-20090101-160207-99-538417, 02/07/2016, accessed on 02.08.2016 []
  2. http://www.ibtimes.com/mexico-child-labor-over-60-children-found-working-vegetable-packing-factory-northern-2062954, 8/21/2015, accessed on 02.08.2016 []
  3. Http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/01/18/children-at-work-in-mexico-still-a-major-issue, 18.01.2013, called at 8:02. 2016 []
  4. Https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/01/12/helping-reduce-child-labor-farms, 1/12/2015, accessed on 02.08.2016 []
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